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The Waning Sword: Conversion Imagery and Celestial Myth in 'Beowulf'

The Waning Sword: Conversion Imagery and Celestial Myth in 'Beowulf' Edward Pettit
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78374-827-3 £28.95
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-78374-828-0 £38.95
PDF ISBN: 978-1-78374-829-7 £0.00
epub ISBN: 978-1-78374-830-3 £5.99
mobi ISBN: 978-1-78374-831-0 £5.99
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The image of a giant sword melting stands at the structural and thematic heart of the Old English heroic poem Beowulf. This meticulously researched book investigates the nature and significance of this golden-hilted weapon and its likely relatives within Beowulf and beyond, drawing on the fields of Old English and Old Norse language and literature, liturgy, archaeology, astronomy, folklore and comparative mythology.

In Part I, Pettit explores the complex of connotations surrounding this image (from icicles to candles and crosses) by examining a range of medieval sources, and argues that the giant sword may function as a visual motif in which pre-Christian Germanic concepts and prominent Christian symbols coalesce.

In Part II, Pettit investigates the broader Germanic background to this image, especially in relation to the god Ing/Yngvi-Freyr, and explores the capacity of myths to recur and endure across time. Drawing on an eclectic range of narrative and linguistic evidence from Northern European texts, and on archaeological discoveries, Pettit suggests that the image of the giant sword, and the characters and events associated with it, may reflect an elemental struggle between the sun and the moon, articulated through an underlying myth about the theft and repossession of sunlight.

The Waning Sword: Conversion Imagery and Celestial Myth in 'Beowulf' is a welcome contribution to the overlapping fields of Beowulf-scholarship, Old Norse-Icelandic literature and Germanic philology. Not only does it present a wealth of new readings that shed light on the craft of the Beowulf-poet and inform our understanding of the poem’s major episodes and themes; it further highlights the merits of adopting an interdisciplinary approach alongside a comparative vantage point. As such, The Waning Sword will be compelling reading for Beowulf-scholars and for a wider audience of medievalists.

The Waning Sword: Conversion Imagery and Celestial Myth in 'Beowulf'
Edward Pettit | January 2020
562 pp. | 7 color illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783748273
ISBN Hardback: 9781783748280
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783748297
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783748303
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783748310
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781783748327
Categories: BIC:DSBB (Literary studies: classical, early and medieval), D (Literature and literary studies), 2ABA (Anglo-Saxon); BISAC: LIT011000 (LITERARY CRITICISM / Medieval), FIC014020 ( FICTION / Historical / Medieval)

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Signs and Abbreviations

1. Introduction: Beowulf, an Early Anglo-Saxon Epic Download
Edward Pettit

Part I. Ice, Candle and Cross: Images of the Giant Sword in Beowulf

2. The Giant Sword and the Ice Download
Edward Pettit

3. The Giant Sword and the Candle Download
Edward Pettit

4. The Giant Sword and the Cross Download
Edward Pettit

Part II. Sun-Swords and Moon-Monsters: On the Theft and Recovery of Sunlight in Beowulf and Other Early Northern Texts

5. Whose Sword Is It, Anyway? Download
Edward Pettit

6. Ing, Ingvi-Freyr and Hroðgar Download
Edward Pettit

7. Freyr, Skírnir and Gerðr Download
Edward Pettit

8. Lævateinn and the Maelstrom-Giantess Download
Edward Pettit

9. Freyr's Solar Power and the Purifying Sword Download
Edward Pettit

10. Freyr, Heorot and the Hunt for the Solar Stag Download
Edward Pettit

11. A Tale of Two Creatures: The Theft and Recovery of Sunlight in Riddle 29 Download
Edward Pettit

12. Another Tale of Two Creatures: The Loss and Recovery of the Solar Draught-Beast in Wið Dweorh Download
Edward Pettit

13. The Solar Antler in Sólarljóð Download
Edward Pettit

14. Grendel, His Mother, and Other Moon-Monsters Download
Edward Pettit

15. The Sun in the Pike Download
Edward Pettit

16. Conclusion: Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon Song of Ice and Fire Download
Edward Pettit

Supplementary Note
List of Illustrations

Edward Pettit studied Old and Middle English, Old Norse, Old Irish and medieval Latin at the University of London. His studies there culminated, at King’s College, in an edition of an Anglo-Saxon medical collection, the Lacnunga, for which he was awarded a PhD in Old English. He is currently working principally on what he hopes will be a one-volume edition and translation of the Old Norse mythological and legendary poems of the Poetic Edda. His main publications are:

‘Anglo-Saxon Charms in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Barlow 35’, Nottingham Medieval Studies 43 (1999), 33-46
‘Some Anglo-Saxon Charms’, in Essays on Anglo-Saxon and Related Themes in Memory of Lynne Grundy, ed. Jane Roberts and Janet Nelson (King’s College, London, 2000), 411-33
Anglo-Saxon Remedies, Charms, and Prayers from British Library MS Harley 585: The ‘Lacnunga’, 2 vols. (Edwin Mellen Press: Lewiston, 2001)
‘Míach’s Healing of Núadu in Cath Maige Tuired’, Celtica 27 (2013), 158-71
‘Cú Chulainn’s Gae Bolga—from Harpoon to Stingray-Spear?’, Studia Hibernica 41 (2015), 9-48
‘Three Variations on the Theme of the Dog-Headed Spear in Medieval Irish: Celtchar’s lúin, Conall Cernach’s Derg Drúchtach, Lugaid’s flesc’, Studia Hibernica 42 (2016), 65-96
‘The Bristle of Balar’s Boar, Diarmaid’s Misstep and the Gae Bolga: Background and Analogues’, Studia Hibernica 44 (2018), 35-78

Supplementary BibliographyDownload

Supplementary ObservationsDownload

Errata to The Waning SwordDownload